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Suppose you see a mother with a laughing little 2-year-old. In English, we might exclaim, "how cute!"

I've had trouble saying this in Spanish. The word "cute" means something like "beautiful", but it has a sense of smallness and playfulness and affection. (It can be used for an adult; I might call my wife "cute" if she's doing something silly, but in serious moments I would say something more like "beautiful".)

I've asked a couple of Spanish speakers for a Spanish equivalent for "cute", and I've looked online, but I'm not sure if any of these fit:

  • lindo or guapo - These could both describe an attractive adult, right?
  • precioso - This seems close; we might say "precious" in English about a small child.
  • ¡qué mono rico es! - This is just confusing. "What a delicious monkey"?

How would you say that a child is "cute" in Spanish?


Update

It's hard to pick a right answer for this since this depends on your region (perhaps that means my question was too vague), so I picked the most upvoted answer and upvoted the others that were helpful to me.

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Related: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/579/… –  jrdioko Feb 20 '12 at 5:32
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In Mexico I always notice precioso for this usage where English would have cute. –  hippietrail Feb 20 '12 at 13:54
    
"lindo or guapo - These could both describe an attractive adult, right?", not really, lindo = cute, guapo = handsome –  vartec Apr 18 '12 at 11:11
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6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

All the words you provide might fit at different levels of "beautiful". Personally, I would translate "cute" as "mono" or "rico" (but never as "mono rico").

You can check the first definition of mono and the seventh of rico. They both mean, specially for children, beautiful and funny.

EDIT: To make things clearer, I'm from Spain, and I don't know what's used in other countries.

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Neither of those are used in Mexico. –  Alfredo Osorio Feb 20 '12 at 15:16
    
@AlfredoO: Added an edit about the regional use –  MikMik Feb 20 '12 at 15:49
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I have always used "precioso/a" to describe cute kids. I'm in Texas, and so mostly speak with people from Mexico. I think this word is pretty safe, since it doesn't have other meanings, like monkey. I've always been scared to use that particular expression as a non-native speaker.

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Tambien diria yo: Que chulo/a. –  Paul Jul 20 '12 at 21:39
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In Mexico we use for cute:

¡Qué lindo!

¡Qué bonito!

Also we use a regionalism:

¡Qué tierno!

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Roughly the same in Argentina ("rico" is seldom used; "mono" practically never). I don't think there an exact translation of "cute", with all the current connotations of the word (as in the "cute vs cool" alternative, etc). –  leonbloy Feb 22 '12 at 15:17
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En el Paraguay dijimos "chulina", pero no sé si tiene sentido en otros lugares.

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The Oxford Spanish-English dictionary offers

mono (fam), cuco (fam), rico (CS fam)

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I've heard or used the following:

-¡Que mono!

-¡Que monada!

-¡Que rico!

-¡Que ricura!

-¡Que lindo!

-¡Que simpático!

About guapo/lindo when talking about and adult, they have different meanings. Guapo means handsome, but here in spain, if you say: bueno, es linda, then she is definetely NOT handsome.

¡qué mono rico es!. That's incorrect.

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